For teams who miss out on Kirk Cousins or Case Keenum, AJ McCarron could be an interesting fallback option.
McCarron will be available in the unrestricted free agent market after winning a grievance against the Cincinnati Bengals. McCarron argued that the Bengals didn’t have the right to put him on the non-football injury list in 2014 with a shoulder injury. The NFI designation kept him from gaining an accrued season toward free agency. Had McCarron gone on injured reserve instead, that season would have counted toward his service time (for all of the details, the Cincinnati Enquirer had a great breakdown). McCarron filed a grievance and won on Thursday, according to multiple reports. That means McCarron will be an unrestricted free agent, not a restricted free agent as he was set to be.
That’s a pretty big deal for a few reasons. First, it allows McCarron the shot to find a team that will give him a chance to start. McCarron started three regular-season games and a playoff game in 2014, and played fairly well. On 133 career attempts he has 920 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions in his career for a rating of 93.6. That’s a small sample size, but McCarron’s pedigree also matters. He was a highly successful college quarterback at Alabama.
Also, it adds a new twist to what will be a fascinating quarterback market. McCarron will have suitors. Remember, the Cleveland Browns offered a reported second- and third-round pick to the Bengals at the trade deadline last year, which is more than the San Francisco 49ers gave up for Jimmy Garoppolo. That can be chalked up to the Browns being the Browns and trying to overpay for a backup (the trade didn’t go through because an email snafu … which is peak Browns), but it shows there will be interest. McCarron has played OK when given the chance, and there are more than a few teams that could use a quarterback with some promise and experience.
McCarron will probably have to get in line behind Cousins and Keenum (and Drew Brees, if he unexpectedly hits the market without a new deal from the New Orleans Saints), but teams that lose out on the bidding for them could turn to McCarron. Mike Glennon had more experience than McCarron, but Glennon wasn’t regarded much higher than McCarron, if at all, and got a contract worth $15 million per season last year.
And just think: The Browns still need a quarterback.
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